Every year I watch the show. Every year I am bored for three-plus hours. And every year I promise myself that next year, I’ll tune in after 11 p.m. and just see who wins the top awards.
The structure of the show seems designed to minimize ratings and lose a whole generation of viewers. I know it might be strange to say that about a program that is traditionally the highest-rated non-sports event on television, but that may not be always the case if some relatively simple changes are not made.
It’s interesting to note that in the previous 10 years, the median age of the broadcast rose from 47 to 54. This year it may be even older.
Let’s take a look at this year’s broadcast.
The first acting award, Best Supporting Actress, was presented at about 9:10 pm. For the next hour and a half, during the peak of prime time, no other acting awards were given out. Instead, we got Costume Design, Production Design, Makeup and Hair Styling, Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Animated Short Film, and Animated Feature.
These awards are important to industry insiders, as well as the nominees’ circles of friends and family. Not so much to the general viewing public. I am by no means suggesting eliminating any of these, simply changing the schedule of when they are presented.
At about 10:30 p.m., they presented Best Supporting Actor. Another hour then went by before any of the Big Four awards were doled out. We did get Documentary Short Film, Documentary Feature, Live Action Short, Best Foreign Film, Original Score and Original Song.
At 11:30 p.m., they announced, “the big acting awards are still to come.” Best Actress was presented at 11:44, Best Actor at 11:51, and Best Picture at midnight.
There was a time (pre-1990s), when it probably seemed logical to hold back the major awards as a way to keep viewers tuned in. But in today’s media world, particularly with big live events, social media often keeps people tuned in.
Had the major awards been spread out over the entire telecast, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the like would have probably seen significantly more Oscar-related activity. Social media would have kept more people tuned in and discussing the show.
Here’s how I would do it:
After the opening, present Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.
Then present a major award every 45 minutes. For Best Actor, Actress and Picture, precede the award presentation with three-minute clips of each nominee – this will provide a better picture of each performance and greater anticipation for each award.
While showing the clips, the Academy could even give viewers a chance to vote online or by phone. Then show their choices online at the end of the broadcast to see how they compare to the actual winners.
At 9 p.m., present Best Director. At 9:45 present Best Actor. At 10:30 present Best Actress. At 11:15 present Best Picture.
The show will flow better, it won’t be nearly as boring, and ratings will improve.